Tom Reynolds

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EPA’s Clean Power Plan Protects Low-Income and Minority Communities

When President Obama announced the final Clean Power Plan earlier this month, he predicted that some cynical critics would claim the plan harms minority and low-income communities. Then he chuckled and shook his head, because the truth is, failing to act on climate is what stands to hurt vulnerable Americans the most.

Just as the President predicted, in the weeks since the announcement, we’re seeing the usual cast of special interest critics roll out the usual tired, worn out, and frankly, false arguments. Put simply, the Clean Power Plan will not impact affordable, reliable power. It will protect vulnerable communities. And it will save consumers money.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina—a powerful reminder that low-income and minority communities are the most vulnerable to climate-related impacts like stronger storms, floods, fires, and droughts, and the least able to rebuild after a disaster. And the carbon pollution driving climate change comes packaged with other dangerous soot- and smog-forming pollutants that can lead to lung and heart disease. Low-income and minority Americans are more likely to live in the shadow of polluting industries like power plants, and more likely to be exposed to higher levels of pollution.

When we cut carbon pollution, we also reduce other dangerous pollutants and protect public health. Under the Clean Power Plan, in 2030 alone, the U.S. will avoid up to 90,000 asthma attacks in children and 300,000 missed days of school and work due to respiratory symptoms—saving families the costs of medical treatment and hospital visits.

Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., recently said “The poor and disenfranchised—too often those in communities of color—still disproportionately bear society’s harms through no fault of their own. That truth has compelled the fight for social justice across the spectrum: labor rights, women’s rights—and yes—environmental rights. Because no matter who we are or where we come from, we’re all entitled to the basic human rights of clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy land to call home. Make no mistake, the injustice of climate change and the pollution that fuels it are among this century’s most debilitating engines of inequality.”

Through its Clean Power Plan, EPA is striving to protect low-income and minority Americans. We received more than 4.3 million public comments on our draft rule, and hosted hundreds of meetings with stakeholders, including vulnerable communities. We heard loud and clear that we needed to make sure our rule didn’t disproportionately impact low-income Americans—and we worked with the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure that’s the case.

By 2030, the average family will save $85 a year on electricity, thanks to increased energy efficiency measures. In the interim, any small, short-term increase in electricity bills would be well within normal price fluctuations—roughly the cost of a gallon of milk per month. For each dollar spent on the Clean Power Plan, families will see 4 dollars in health benefits alone. And in all, we’ll see $45 billion a year in net benefits thanks to EPA’s plan.

Climate action is an incredible economic opportunity, and to make sure its benefits extend to every community, we’re creating a Clean Energy Incentive Program that will help states transition to clean energy faster. It’s a voluntary matching fund program states can use to encourage early investment in wind or solar power projects, as well as energy efficiency projects in low-income communities.

EPA is also requiring states to demonstrate how they are engaging with communities as they craft customized state plans to meet their carbon pollution reduction goals.

The real threat to affordable, reliable electricity is climate change. More extreme heat and cold cause utility bills to skyrocket, which hurts low-income families the most. And storms, floods, fires, and drought can knock out the power for days or weeks, threatening public health.  That’s why we need to act.

The cynics’ claims are nothing new. We heard the same tired arguments back in the 1990s, when some critics opposed EPA’s limits on acid rain-causing pollution from power plants. They warned electricity bills would go up, and the lights would go off. But they were wrong. Instead of the economic doomsday some predicted, we slashed acid rain by 60 percent—while prices stayed stable, and the lights stayed on. EPA has been limiting harmful pollution from power plants for 45 years, and we have a proven track record of keeping energy affordable and reliable.

We still have work to do to protect vulnerable communities from pollution, but EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a historic step in the right direction. In his announcement, President Obama spoke about our moral obligation to vulnerable communities, to our children, and to future generations to act on climate. The Clean Power Plan will help build a safer, brighter future for all Americans.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Lower Utility Bills, Billions in Benefits Every Year

By: Tom Reynolds

They’re at it again. Just like we predicted, critics are already claiming EPA’s Clean Power Plan will drive up utility rates, or that the cost of climate action isn’t worth it. They’re wrong.

Not only will the Clean Power Plan save families an estimated $85 a year on their utility bills in 2030; the health benefits of this rule alone outweigh the costs 4 to 1.

The transition to clean energy is happening faster than anticipated, even when we proposed the rule last year—and that’s a very good thing. It means carbon and air pollution are already decreasing, improving public health every year. The Clean Power Plan accelerates this momentum, putting us on pace to cut this dangerous pollution to historically low levels in the future.

By 2030, sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants will be 90 percent lower than 2005 levels, and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be 72 percent lower. Because these pollutants can create dangerous soot and smog, the historically low levels mean we’ll avoid 90,000 children’s asthma attacks, 300,000 missed days of school and work, and up to 3,600 premature deaths in 2030 alone.

The Clean Power Plan isn’t just about what we avoid; it’s about what we gain. Our rule is projected to lead to billions of dollars a year in benefits. They include climate benefits of $20 billion a year, health benefits of up to $34 billion a year, and net benefits of up to $45 billion a year in 2030. In short, the Clean Power Plan will protect Americans’ health and their pocketbooks.

A major reason for this rule is to protect vulnerable communities—and that includes keeping electricity rates affordable for low-income Americans. That’s why the Clean Power Plan gives states and utilities the time and flexibility they need to take carbon pollution into account while preserving affordable, reliable power.

We wouldn’t accept anything less. States and utilities told us they needed more time than the proposal gave them to make a smooth transition—and we listened. That’s why, in the final rule, required pollution reductions don’t kick in until 2022—a two-year extension. Utilities already spend $100 billion a year to generate and deliver electricity; we’ve made sure our plan gives them time to take carbon pollution into account with the investments they’re already making.

But to encourage states to stay ahead of the curve and not delay planned investments, we’re creating a Clean Energy Incentive Program that will help states transition to clean energy faster. It’s a voluntary matching fund program states can use to encourage early investment in wind or solar power projects, as well as energy efficiency projects in low-income communities.

We’re also requiring that states give vulnerable communities a seat at the table with other stakeholders as they craft their compliance plans, making sure everyone has a voice in the decision-making process.

The real threat to affordable power is climate change. More extreme heat and cold send utility bills through the roof—and force low-income families to choose between heating their homes and other essentials like food and medicine. More intense droughts, floods, fires, and storms can knock out the power for days or weeks—like we saw during Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, and the major Boston snowstorms last winter.

Despite these facts, the critics are crying wolf, just like they have for decades.

They cried wolf in the ‘90s, when they opposed our limits on acid rain-causing pollution from power plants. They said our rule would send prices up, and turn the lights off. But instead of the doomsday some critics predicted, we slashed acid rain by 60 percent, all while keeping prices stable and keeping the lights on.

EPA has proven time and time again that a safe environment is the foundation of a strong economy. Over the last 45 years, we’ve cut air pollution 70 percent—all while our economy has tripled.

The American people won’t buy into the same tired plays from the same special-interest playbook. They know better. We encourage everyone to get the facts at epa.gov/cleanpowerplan

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The Clean Power Plan: Protecting Public Health While Safeguarding Affordable, Reliable Electricity

Since the day EPA began working on the Clean Power Plan, we have committed to cutting the carbon pollution causing climate change, while ensuring grid reliability. Misleading claims from a few special-interest critics may try to convince folks otherwise, but we know reliability is a top issue for states, utilities, and energy regulators. And that means it’s a top issue for EPA. As always, we are committed to working with stakeholders to make sure reliability is never threatened.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held the first in a series of technical conferences on electricity reliability to discuss this issue. We appreciated the chance to take part.

As our Acting Assistant Administrator for Air Janet McCabe said, “Over EPA’s long history of developing Clean Air Act pollution standards for the electric power sector, including the proposed Clean Power Plan, the agency has consistently treated electric system reliability as absolutely critical. Because of this attention, at no time in the more than 40 years that EPA has been implementing the Clean Air Act has compliance with air pollution standards resulted in reliability problems.”

We’re going to continue the constructive dialogue we’ve had with states, utilities, energy regulators, and the public as we finalize our proposal this summer to cut carbon pollution from the power sector 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. We worked carefully to make our proposal flexible, offering states and electric generators a wide variety of approaches to meet their pollution reduction goals.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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EPA Commitment to Outreach and Engagement

At its core, the Environmental Protection Agency is committed to broad outreach and engagement when developing rules and regulations that help protect human health and the environment where we live, learn and work.

Nowhere was that commitment to engagement more fully realized than in the development of the Clean Power Plan, the proposal to reduce harmful carbon pollution, drive innovation in the clean energy sector, and create new jobs across America.

Despite the full breadth and depth of the unprecedented outreach EPA engaged in to formulate and develop the Clean Power Plan proposal, some continue to push a flawed, cherry-picked, narrative that simply ignores the well-documented and widely reported and recognized sweep and range of the Agency’s engagement with the public, states and stakeholders over the past 14 months. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Mapping the Truth

Since releasing our proposal in March to better protect clean water, there have been some questions raised in the press, most recently about maps that use data developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Fish & Wildlife Service and show locations and flow patterns of many of the nation’s waterways.

Before discussing the truth about the history and purpose of the maps, let’s review some basic facts. The Clean Water Act was passed by Congress to protect our nation’s water bodies from pollution. This law has nothing to do with land use or private property rights, and our proposal does not do anything to change that. The idea that EPA can use the Clean Water Act to execute a land grab or intrude on private property rights is simply false. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A Cleaner Environment, a Stronger Economy

When we last heard from the Chamber of Commerce, they were releasing a report that made unfounded assumptions about EPA’s commonsense standards to cut the harmful pollution from power plants. The Washington Post Fact Checker later gave those citing the study a “Four Pinocchio” rating.
Yesterday, the Chamber had another blog post that both misrepresents EPA’s analysis of the economic impact of its regulations and misleads about a recent GAO study.

EPA is keenly aware that our economy is on the rebound and that policy makers are concerned about impacts on employment — that is why we have increased the amount of employment analysis we perform over the last several years, particularly for economically significant rules.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A very short fact check

Remember when we predicted that the special interests and their allies would waste no time launching false attacks on EPA’s common sense proposal to limit carbon pollution? It didn’t take long for them to prove us right.

As part of our commitment to ensure Americans are getting accurate information about our policies, we’ll continue to dig into the false claims and misleading “analyses.” And sometimes our opponents will make it easier than others. For example, in a “study” making the rounds today from the Heritage Foundation, the wheels fall off before the car is even out of the garage. Let me just quote them:

“While not directly modeling the EPA’s regulations…”

See what they did there? They just admitted that the whole analysis has nothing to do with what EPA actually proposed. Now that disclaimer doesn’t stop them from making all sorts of dire claims intended to sound like they’re about EPA’s proposal. But it’s a good warning about how little those claims have to do with reality.

To be a little more precise, the Heritage “study” is about the effects of fully phasing out coal from the American energy mix. By contrast, EPA’s plan projects coal to be more than 30% of our energy mix well into the future. In fact, the proposal leaves states with enormous flexibility to choose the fuel sources and methods that work best for them. In addition, when the effects of this plan are in place in 2030, average electricity bills will be 8 percent cheaper.

So next time you hear special interests or politicians citing a scary report from the Heritage Foundation, make sure and ask them about the fine print.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Setting the Record Straight on the Chamber of Commerce’s Report

Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report that makes unfounded assumptions about the EPA’s upcoming proposal for commonsense standards to cut the harmful carbon pollution from power plants.

First, before EPA even put pen to paper to draft the proposed standards, we gathered an unprecedented amount of input and advice through hundreds of meetings with hundreds of groups—including many members of the Chamber.  That input fed into the draft proposal we’ll release on June 2, and we plan to kick off a second phase of engagement as we work through the draft and get to a reasonable, meaningful final rule.

Second—the Chamber’s report is nothing more than irresponsible speculation based on guesses of what our draft proposal will be.  Just to be clear—it’s not out yet. I strongly suggest that folks read the proposal before they cry the sky is falling. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.